The UN Security Council on Friday unanimously adopted a resolution that lays the groundwork for deploying a UN police presence in Burundi to help quell nearly a year of violence.
Drafted by France, the resolution tasks UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon with drawing up within 15 days a list of options for the proposed police force, in consultation with the Burundian government and the African Union.
The council is under pressure to take action in Burundi where the descent into violence has raised fears of mass atrocities, similar to those that convulsed neighbouring Rwanda in 1994.
"We need the United Nations to be more present on the ground," French Ambassador Francois Delattre told the council.
The resolution will help the international community "respond quickly to avoid the worst," he said.
The vote capped days of tough negotiations between France and the United States over the wording of the resolution, the second measure adopted by the council over the Burundi crisis.
The resolution provides for the "deployment of a United Nations police contribution to increase the United Nations capacity to monitor the security situation, promote the respect of human rights and advance rule of law" in Burundi.
The text does not specify the size of the proposed police force but Burundi's UN Ambassador Albert Shingiro said he expected between 20 and 30 police to be deployed as "experts and observers."
"For the government, it is very important to have an international presence in Bujumbura in order to work in transparency," Shingiro told reporters ahead of the vote.
After France pushed for a quick vote, the United States had complained that the text was rushed through and argued for more time to consider the measure, diplomats said.
The final revised text dropped a reference to UN support for "disarmament" in Burundi -- a term that the United States saw as a potential source of problems after the Burundian government launched a crackdown to disarm opposition activists.
What is happening in Burundi?
Burundi has been in a cycle of violence since April 2015 when President Pierre Nkurunziza won a disputed election following his decision to seek a third term, despite a constitutional two-term limit.
More than 400 people have been killed and about 3,500 arrested in Burundi, under the government crackdown, since April last year, according to the United Nations figures.
As of early March, more than 250,000 Burundians have fled the country, fearing a possible genocide, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR says.
They were registered as refugees in neighbouring countries including Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
In last month the European Union has suspended its direct financial support to the government of Burundi after the bloc concluded that it had finished peace talks with the Burundian government to find a political solution for the conflict.
From 1993 to 2005 Burundi was in a civil war in which approximately 300,000 people died due to conflict between rebels from the country's majority Hutu population and an army dominated by the Tutsi minority.
The African Union and United Nations have warned in the past of a possible tribal war and genocide in Burundi.